Here is a variety of advertisements based on real pharmaceutical and alcohol advertisements.
Advertising plays a huge role on our lives. By guiding the unconscious mind advertisers can influence your opinion in many sneaky ways. Most countries have some regulations regarding marketing of pharmaceuticals or recreational drugs, but billions of dollars are being spent on marketing in the pharmaceutical industry and in many ways it does define how you think about drugs.
The first series is based on informational advertisements, targeted towards both health care professionals and consumers. They often share a similar setup of happy illustrative images focusing on how the specific substance can help alleviate different symptoms.
I have been especially fascinated with how pharmaceutical companies have marketed amphetamine over the last 50 years. It stands out as very peculiar, being one of the most promoted drugs through pharmaceutical companies and at the same time one of the most demonised by government scare-campaigns. Big pharmaceutical companies have promoted it for decades for a wide array of different illnesses. You can find ads promoting it for everything from depression, weightloss, menstrual dysfunction, and more recently ADHD.
Most of the texts and information in these pharmaceutical style ads presented here is taken from real medical advertisements with visual alterations to make them look and feel more modern.
The brand names have all been replaced with substance itself.
The intention is to put the spotlight on the absurdity we face by having drugs being promoted or demonised, not based on their harm to the user or society, but on a political scale that has little roots in reality.
My personal belief is that advertising drugs is wrong (including alcohol and pharmaceutical products). When you look at the alcohol industry they use the absolute dirtiest marketing tricks available. They play on sex, power and independence. They enforce positive brand associations by creating illusion around their brand. If drugs ever were to be legal I hope it will be with strict regulations in terms of marketing.
Taking it one step further
Although the pharmaceutical ads are pretty extreme there are still pretty strict regulations for how to advertise pharmaceutical drugs. Legal drugs on the other hand have little to few regulations on advertisements in many countries. Coffee is perhaps the most common one and legal in most parts of the world, and although most dont think of it as a drug it has pretty potent and noticeable effects on the central nervous system. Alcohol is the other big one. Although some countries have strict limitations on advertising alcohol there are still plenty of ways to build a brand for the big alcohol producers. In countries where alcohol advertisement is legal you will find some of the dirtiest tricks being used to create an illusion around their brand and their products.
These types of advertisements have inspired me to imagine a world of legal drugs and how big corporations might try to sell you their products.
The other side
Governments all over the world have spent billions of dollars on demonising drugs. Sometimes even go so far as fabricating research to back up their claims.
It is impressive how effective this has been in changing the public perception of drugs. Most people have a general opinion of these things being inherently bad without actually understanding or caring about the underlaying mechanisms. Before the 1960's most people did not really have much opinion on drug use. You could buy many strong drugs freely at the pharmacy and few people searched it out or had much issues with them. Until the War on Drugs started and everything changed.
One might argue that this has been somewhat effective in scaring some people away from trying drugs, but when you look at the enormous consequences it has had on society by criminalising millions of high functioning, non-violent people it comes of as a really scary example on how effectively the people in power can change public perception through marketing and media.
I have taken our most common legal drug; alcohol, and made propaganda posters focusing only on the side effects. Again inspired by real life scare-campaigns of other drugs. Most people use alcohol responsibly and won't agree with the information presented below, but by focusing only on the side effects and using scary images and slogans it helps enforce the idea that these things are bad for you and will ruin your life.
Everything on this site is under creative commons. You may use it as you please. I especially hope that organisation working on drug reform policy will find some use for these images. If you are an organisation, blogger, journalist or anyone else that see some relevance in this to your own work feel free to use these images for whatever you want. You are free to put your logo on any pictures and promote them as your own without giving credits, but I do of course appreciate being credited by linking back to this site.
Want to contribute?
If you are a designer or photographer that wants to share your designs/pictures you can send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will select some pictures and post them on the site. By sending pictures to me you agree to release them under creative commons. Everything posted on this site should be made with royalty free images so that others might share them freely. If you need other high quality photos I highly recommend using www.unsplash.com. All photos published on Unsplash are licensed under Creative Commons Zero which means you can copy, modify and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes.